IST doctoral students receive IBM Ph.D. Fellowship Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Graduate students Yueqi Chen and Wenbo Guo, both doctoral candidates in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, have earned the IBM Ph.D. Fellowship Award in recognition and support of their work in cybersecurity. Penn State is one of only two institutions, along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to receive multiple fellowships this year. 

The IBM Ph.D. Fellowships are granted annually by global technology leader IBM. The fellowship honors outstanding doctoral candidates whose work aligns with IBM’s mission and advances the frontier of technology through research in artificial intelligence, blockchain, quantum computing, data science, security, hybrid cloud technology, and the next generation of cutting-edge processors.

“To be recognized as a top-tier doctoral researcher by IBM gives me even greater confidence in my work,” said Guo. “This is an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap between academic research and industry. I will be able to work with IBM on real-world issues to make my research even more impactful in both academic and industrial settings.”

Added Chen, “This new partnership is exciting because IBM has such a strong background in computer systems research. It is a great opportunity for me to bring my ideas to IBM’s products, which could influence millions of people and enterprises around the world. I am grateful to IBM for both their support and recognition.”

According to IBM, the 2020 award cycle saw hundreds of applications from 140 universities in 31 countries, with only 24 fellowships awarded in total. Penn State, alongside MIT, is the only institution to receive more than one award this year. Applications were reviewed by pioneering technologists from across IBM, and recipients were selected based on demonstrated academic excellence and innovative, outstanding research proposals.

“We are extremely proud of Yueqi’s and Wenbo’s research, which continues to be recognized nationally and internationally,” said Andrew Sears, dean of the College of Information Sciences and Technology. “This honor reinforces what we already knew — that our doctoral students are engaged in work that is of great interest to leading researchers and organizations. IBM’s support recognizes that the significance of this research will not only help advance the work of Yueqi and Wenbo, but it will also help us continue to attract outstanding Ph.D. students.”

At Penn State, Chen and Guo’s research will center around computer security. Both work under the guidance of Xinyu Xing, assistant professor of information sciences and technology. Chen’s project analyzes exploitability escalation and assessment, seeking to uncover a new perspective on secure software systems. Guo’s project tackles the potential security threats of artificial intelligence systems. His research will develop interpretable, robust and safe AI systems for security applications that perform malware and binary analysis, and intrusion detection.

Edward L. Hatch II, vice president of IBM Marketing Acceleration Services, added, "This is a brilliant opportunity for two strong institutions to partner to bring forward critical AI capabilities to society in a meaningful and secure manner. It is a privilege to be able to support the passion and efforts of these two exceptional researchers."

Funds from the IBM Ph.D. Fellowship support a two-year stipend for living expenses, travel to attend conferences as well as an education allowance for year one. Awardees also receive mentorship from IBM researchers and collaborate on a research or technical project. During their first or second year, they are also offered the opportunity to participate in an internship with the company.

Information for the 2021 IBM Ph.D. Fellowship application will be available on the company's website.

These fellowship awards add to IBM’s longstanding support for and partnership with Penn State. Since 2014, IBM has hired more than 50 full-time employees from Penn State’s alumni ranks, bringing the total to more than 175. IBM also has donated more than $1 million to Penn State since 2014 and is one of Penn State’s educational alliance partners. Most recently, IBM donated a cutting-edge system, known as the AC922, to Penn State, where it sits in a test environment of Penn State’s supercomputer, ICDS-ACI, run by the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences. It is the exact same hardware powering the world’s two biggest supercomputers, Summit and Sierra, both located in U.S. national laboratories.

IBM is a keystone partner of the Penn State Corporate Engagement Center. The Corporate Engagement Center connects industry partners to strategic opportunities at Penn State for research and development, philanthropic opportunities, and recruitment needs. Brought together in 2019, the center serves as a hub for industry/University relationships, supporting companies as they navigate the vast resources of Penn State. The center aims to help build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

IBM’s support will help to advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated June 29, 2021